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Choosing & Insuring a Hybrid Car

Aug 10, 2008
If you're an 'in market' hybrid car shopper or in the midst of researching a new purchase of an energy efficient car, there are plenty of things to keep in mind.

First, you will want to examine the specific hybrid's estimated gas mileage - and be sure to ask when the gasoline engine kicks in, too. You may find that if you drive a lot of highway miles at faster speeds and the gas engine kicks in at 35 mph, you may not save as much money on fuel as you expected.

You'll also want to consider any tax saving credits that being offered. There is a federal income tax credit (up to $3,400) given on the first 60,000 hybrid models sold. After that benchmark is met, the credit is gradually phased out. Fueleconomy.gov maintains a list of eligible vehicles and the current tax credits available, but you should also confirm with your dealership.

Also, you may want to think about hybrid car insurance. Some insurance companies offer a discount on hybrid car insurance - others do not. Hybrid cars are still relatively new to the marketplace, and shopping around for discounts that come with hybrid car insurance will pay off in the long run.

To be truly eco-friendly, you'll also want to check the green rating for that particular hybrid car. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), four of the top 12 greenest vehicles of 2008, feature hybrid powertrain engines. However, there is a bigger environmental impact to consider. Some of the hybrids feature nickel batteries, which cause more long-term environmental damage than their gasoline counterparts. If you are interested in a hybrid car, be an informed consumer and check the air pollution scores, greenhouse gas scores, and other features that impact the environment.

Be aware that as a result of the growing popularity of hybrid cars, especially the Prius, you may pay over-sticker price because of the demand. You may also have a hard time locating the exact model you want, or be placed on a waiting list.

The best-selling hybrid cars of 2008 include:

Toyota Prius

With a $21,500 base sticker price, the Toyota Prius isn't exactly cheap. However, it's still a reasonably affordable hybrid car option for many consumers, especially after factoring in the fuel savings achieved due to the Prius' 45 city/48 hwy mpg rating by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is classified as the most fuel efficient car in the U.S.

Currently the best-selling hybrid car, the Toyota Prius has been embraced by Hollywood - it's a favorite among celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, Larry David, Julia Robers, Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow and Harrison Ford.

Many Prius owners claim to achieve over 60 mpg, and those employing hypermiling techniques may fare even better. For consumers averaging much less, the Prius sounds like a gift from heaven. However, the Toyota Prius may take some getting used to.

Overall, getting into a Toyota Prius seems more like entering a spaceship than an automobile. However, once you get beyond its odd shape, you'll find alarge on-dash computer screen offering instant feedback on your gas mileage, as well as a rearview camera (you'll need it in this vehicle due to blind spots). And you may miss other options, like a sunroof, which reduces fuel economy, too.

Honda Civic Hybrid

The Honda Civic Hybrid car has an EPA-estimated city/highway rating of 40 city/45 hwy mpg and a base sticker price of $22,600, comparable to that of the Toyota Prius. The Honda Civic hybrid features an Advanced Technology Partial-Zero-Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV) rating, which is the most stringent emission standard achieved by a gasoline-powered vehicle in the U.S. In fact, it is classified as one of the most fuel efficient cars in America, along with the Toyota Prius.

In terms of looks, it's hard to tell the standard Honda Civic from its hybrid counterpart. They are nearly identical.

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Toyota Camry Hybrid car has a base sticker price of $25,650 and is a good option for those looking for a little more luxury and fuel efficiency. It looks like the standard Toyota Camry on the road, but offers a quieter ride due to the special acoustic-dampening windshield made to absorb road noise.

The Toyota Camry hybrid car has an EPA-estimated city/highway rating of 33 city/34 hwy mpg rating, which not as good as either the Prius or Civic Hybrid cars. However, as a mid-size sedan, it offers room for the entire family.

Ford Escape Hybrid SUV

Known as the most fuel efficient SUV on earth, the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV has an EPA-estimated city/highway rating of 34 city/30 hwy mpg rating and base sticker price of $26,640. It's available in both 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive, and features a tough, rugged look, although technically it's still considered a cross-over vehicle.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the Ford Escape hybrid is ranked 15 out of 27 in terms of affordable compact SUVs, a few spots below the gasoline version. The new 2008 model was redesigned to provide a more comfortable rise and mature appearance.

Overall, the Ford Escape hybrid has received good, thumbs-up reviews in publications ranging from the New York Times to Newsday.

Hybrid Insurance

You'll find plenty of information online at FuelEconomy.gov, from a specific vehicle's energy impact score, carbon footprint statistics and EPA air pollution score to its eligibility for a tax credit. Other helpful green vehicle information is available at the EPA Web site.
About the Author
And once you've chosen your vehicle, you can find the best auto insurance, as well plenty of driving safety tips, at Nationwide.com.
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